College of Southern Nevada Counseling and Psychology Services launched a training program in March at its campuses for staffers to pick up on early warning signs of mental health problems in their classrooms and organizations.
The program started after the college was awarded a three-year, $50,000 federal grant to help provide the training sessions. Training will continue through the end of this semester.
“It is part of bringing awareness to mental health and moving from a culture of silence to a culture of awareness,” said Daniel Alvarado, director of counseling and psychology services at CSN.
Twelve staff members underwent three or four days of intense training to become “trainers,” Alvarado said. Those staffers then became facilitators of the classes.
Alvarado said training sessions are eight hours, and that the course helps staffers learn about mental health risk factors, how to help someone in crisis and how to connect people in crisis to the counseling center. He said he’d like the program to extend to student leaders and other students.
The first training for “trainers” was March 5 through 7 and the first campus-wide workshop was March 28, said CSN spokesman Richard Lake.
Trainer Brian Akins, director of student life and leadership development, taught his first session two weeks ago.
Before the training, Akins said, he had limited knowledge about how to address mental health issues in students. He said he learned about “everything from psychosis to depression to schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and what they look like, and where to refer students with these different mental illnesses.”
Akins said the first step in helping a student with a mental health illness is to “asses the risk of suicide or harm.”
He said he learned to listen without judgment.
“There is a negative stigma to mental health,” Akins said. “People may lose their jobs if they disclose they have a mental illness. They are ostracized and often lose friends and potential relationships.”
Akins said staff members who go through the training are not diagnosing students.
“You would be surprised how many students still don’t know that counseling services are available,” Alvarado said.
Students are eligible for up to 10 free sessions with a counselor as long as they are enrolled at CSN.
Alvarado said a larger number of female students than male use counseling services, and the school is trying to close the gap by providing at least one clinician who is male.
“It is easy to relate to someone who looks like you,” Alvarado said.